On this website, I discuss the basis in Constitutional law for the civil litigation process and the right to a jury trial for civil suits. That right has practical and beneficial impacts, as described in an op-ed over the weekend in the Washington Post.
Gibson Vance, President of the American Association for Justice (AAJ), the largest trial lawyers’ association in the world, wrote, How Our Cars Got Safer, summarizing how litigation against auto manufacturers is one reason for the drop in trafic deaths to the lowest level in over 60 years. “(W)ithout the civil justice system, gas tanks would still explode in rear-end collisions, seat belts and airbags would not be standard, and cars would roll over onto roofs that would be easily crushed.” Mr. Vance cited as examples the famous Ford Pinto gas tank explosion case and a gruesome case in which a power window strangled a child.
Mr. Vance wrote his op-ed based on a detailed study conducted by AAJ of changes in auto safety as a result of civil litigation and the exercise of the 7th Amendment right to a civil jury trial. On a special page on the AAJ website, you can download AAJ’s report, “Driven to Safety: How Litigation Spurred Auto Safety Innovations,” and an interactive graphic showing you which car parts, now standard in every car, were forced upon the industry thanks to lawsuits (it’s a pretty neat graphic). From door latches to the tires to electronic stability control, many of the most important safety features of your car were installed after civil suits won by Americans with the help of their trial lawyers.
AND – that’s not the only consumer product positively impacted by civil suits. AAJ also has conducted studies of the impact of civil litigation on toys used by our children and on the treatment of our elderly relatives and friends by nursing homes (each with neat and educational interactive graphics). As Mr. Vance wrote in his op-ed, “History shows that litigation and the civil justice system have served as the most consistent and powerful forces in heightening safety standards, revealing previously concealed defects and regulatory weaknesses and deterring manufacturers from cutting corners on safety for the goal of greater profits.”
Let your relatives and friends know about these studies and tell your Congressmen. Civil litigation is not only Constitutional, it saves lives too.